Farmworkers defy call to return to work

2012-11-15 12:33
Fruit bins burn at a packing store in Wolesley, during the farmworkers' protest. (Rodger Bosch, AFP)

Fruit bins burn at a packing store in Wolesley, during the farmworkers' protest. (Rodger Bosch, AFP)

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Farmworker protests claim life

2012-11-15 10:07

The violent Western Cape farmworker protests has claimed the life of a 27-year-old farmworker. Watch.WATCH

Wolseley - Striking Western Cape farmworkers defied a government call to return to work on Thursday, with labourers demanding action against a police captain over the death of one of their colleagues.

Workers in the town of Wolseley - earlier the scene of deadly violence - marched through the town early on Thursday, chanting and singing, despite government announcements that the strike had been suspended.

Cosatu had earlier announced that workers would freeze the strike for two weeks while the sector's R70 minimum wage is reviewed.

‘Strike not over’

But protesters have insisted they will not return to the fruit-growing region's farms until they receive a daily wage of at least R150.

"It's not over for us. We are continuing no matter what. We are going forward no matter what," said 19-year-old seasonal fruit farmworker Mandla Betshe.

"It's just a wish for them [for it] to be over."

"The strike is not finished," insisted Pieter Opperman, 38, who earns R80 a day.

"If we get that settlement of R150, I will go back to work with all my heart. Because then I know I can put food on the table for my family and I can sort myself out."

The scene early on Thursday was tense, with a heavy police presence.

‘Volatile’ situation

A worker delegation handed a list of demands to police including the suspension of the local police captain, after 28-year-old Michael Daniels was killed in clashes.

"The most important thing is... who gave the order to shoot. Obviously someone has to take responsibility," said Lamie Mqungquthu, part of the worker delegation.

"Our aim today is to make peace with the police, they must leave the people because all of us have a right" to protest, he said.

Police described the situation as "volatile", with disturbances in the towns of De Doorns, Ceres and Swellendam.

"Police officers are deployed at all affected areas to maintain law and order, and to protect the public," said Lieutenant Colonel André Traut of the Western Cape police.

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Read more on:    cosatu  |  cape town  |  labour  |  farmworker protests  |  strikes  |  protests
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